The recent poverty index report from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) shows that about 82.9 million Nigerians live in extreme poverty. This figure represents 40.1 per cent of the nation’s total population estimated at about 200 million. This is contained in its “2019 Poverty and Inequality” report using the Nigerian Living Standards Survey (NLSS). The NLSS is an official survey for measuring poverty and living standards. It was the outcome of the survey conducted between September 2018 and October 2019. According to the report, an average of four, out of 10 individuals in the country has real per capita expenditure below N137, 430 per annum.
This is considered very poor by all measures of national standards. It means that monthly income of an individual in Nigeria is less than N11, 500, while income per day is as low as N388. According to the statistical agency, this translates to over 82.9 million Nigerians being in the poverty hole, across all the states, except Borno State, which was not covered by the survey on account of the raging insurgency.
Other highlights of the report reveal that urban poverty rate is 18.04 per cent, while rural poverty rate is as high as 52.10 per cent. Also, the NBS poverty headcount rate by states shows that Sokoto, with 87.73 per cent tops the chart of poverty stricken state in the country. Others are Taraba, 87.72 per cent, Jigawa, 87.02 per cent, Zamfara, 73.98 per cent, Ebonyi, 79.76 per cent, and Adamawa, 75.41 per cent.
In addition, the NBS report shows that Lagos state leads the pack of states with the least poverty figure with 4.50 per cent, Delta, 6.02 per cent, Ogun, 9.32, per cent, Osun, 8.52, Oyo, 9.83, Ondo, 12.52 per cent, Edo, 11.9 per cent, Ekiti, 28.04 per cent, Akwa Ibom, 26.82, Benue, 32.9, and Cross River, 36.29 per cent, Bayelsa, 22.61 per cent, Benue, 32.90 per cent. Other states are: Imo, 28.86 per cent, Anambra, 14.78 per cent, Enugu, 58.13 per cent, Kebbi, 50.17 per cent, and others.
The NBS poverty index report has revealed that poverty remains one of the challenges confronting the government. It is also a sad reminder that in spite of President Muhammadu Buhari’s promise to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in 10 years, little has been achieved in that regard. The ravaging coronavirus pandemic may have worsened the poverty level by the time the NBS conducts another survey next year unless urgent policy initiatives are put in place to address the causative factors of poverty in the country. From the report, it can also be gleaned that the poverty rate is higher in the North East, followed by the North West of the country, while the South West states lead the pack with the least poverty rates, followed by the South South, the South East and North Central. More than ever before, the government at all levels and the private sector should collaborate and address the challenges of poverty and inequality in the country. Poverty is a time bomb that should not be allowed to explode. Even the recent lockdown in the country has shown that time has come to stop treating poverty with levity. Playing the ostrich with poverty is no longer an option. Doling out palliatives as was witnessed recently as part of government’s efforts to address the challenges of poverty among the most vulnerable in the society, has achieved little. Nigeria can no longer be the poverty capital of the world. The way forward is to frontally address the human capital development in the country. This entails empowering people with practical skills and knowledge. At present, the unemployment rate in the country is projected to reach 33.5 per cent this year, while youth unemployment is expected to hit 60 per cent due to the COVID-19 pandemic that has affected lifestyles, health systems and global economy. Therefore, government should give more impetus to diversification in areas such as agriculture, manufacturing and other agro-allied industries. Nigeria has about 98.3 hectares of arable land. While about 72.2 million hectares of the land are cultivable, only 34.2 million hectares have been reported cultivated.
Small and Medium Enterprises should be given generous stimulus package with low interest rate, just as priority should also be given to the power sector as well as Ease of Doing Business. We also suggest that part of the $3.4billion loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) should be used to set up private Venture Capital Fund that can be used to create employment, improve our healthcare system and the education sector. President Muhammadu Buhari needs to be reminded that one of his campaign promises in 2015 was to create employment opportunities and sustainable economic growth. Much of that has not been done. We believe that this is the time to set our priorities right and reduce the nation’s rising poverty rate.